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Charismatic Leaders Fellowship 2023

The 2023 Charismatic Leaders Fellowship was held at the Alleluia covenant community in Augusta, Georgia, on February 20-23. That location has now become standard, as the families that make up this Christian community host us graciously with bed and breakfast at no cost. Charismatic leaders who have never attended the CLF should come if only to get a flavor of a covenant community – the closest thing currently to the Jewish Christian community described in Acts. I have described the benefits of this type of Christian living before,[1] and now need to go on to describe this year’s CLF.

Attendees for the CLF came from all over North America and many parts of the world. This year there was a heavy presence of Polish charismatics as well as the usual Brazilians and Italians. It is always a joy to fellowship with these beloved “foreigners” who are brothers and sisters in Christ. I would not be telling readers anything new if I said it is easier talking and enjoying fellowship with a Polish charismatic with a heavy accent, than an unsaved American neighbor.

The Charismatic Leaders Fellowship is by nature ecumenical.

The theme of this year’s conference was ecumenism. A topic that comes up frequently at CLF meetings, in part because the CLF is by nature ecumenical. This year the topic was “receptive ecumenism.” This means and ecumenism and dialogue that does not try to or ague which denomination has the best theology on Christology, the sacraments, etc., or convert the other person to one’s views (the subtle sub-text of many ecumenical dialogues). Rather receptive ecumenism accents listening and learning from the other. It is a humble form of ecumenism that avoid the pitfalls of theological nit-picking and helps form real spiritual unity among the Body of Christ. In this form of ecumenism, the Holy Spirit shows us the good and the beautiful of Christian denominations and theologies we at times disdain.

In a sense “receptive ecumenism” has been going on for quite some time without having a name. I can think of the loving atmosphere of the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International, begun way back in the 1950s be Demos Shakarian. This group was a pre-cursor to the Charismatic Renewal, i.e., mainline Protestants accepting Pentecostal practices.[2] The bond of love and service of this group was not in the least disturbed by its multidenominational membership. Similarly, a half century of ecumenical cooperation to overturn Roe Vs. Wade in various pro-life groups, local and national, led to Protestants of all denomination mingling, cooperating, and loving Catholics – and visa versa. “Receptive ecumenism” was not the primary intention of these groups, but the (providential) result of their meeting together with common goals.

This is not to say that the CLF meeting was redundant. Good theology identifies and solidifies biblical truths, attitudes, and practices. For instance, bad or absent theology on the gifts of the Holy Spirit prevented Pentecostalism and Spirit-filled churches from forming for centuries even though many Christians spoke in tongues and individually practiced the gifts of the Spirit all through Church history.[3] The flourishing of the gifts of the Spirit in whole congregations had to wait for theologies that explained the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. All of which is to say, formulating a theology of receptive ecumenism is important for it to further flourish.

The first speaker (session 1) the Rev. Pat Sparrow, made a starting affirmation that receptive ecumenism was the way to fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we should all be one. The stumbling point is that most churches interested in ecumenism believe they are the model to show the way forward.

Session 2 was a joint presentation by Dr. David Cole and Mr. Nathan Smith, both heavily involved in Rome with Catholic-Pentecostal reconciliation and dialogue. They reflected that half a century of dialogue produced some progress in raising the respect level for one another. But a new attitude of humility and listening is permeating the situation, and this has resulted in Catholics and Pentecostals praying together, something unheard of decades ago.

Fr. Jim Puglisi brought an interesting historical perspective to the conference in the next session. His talk centered on the Syriac church (important in the Early Church). He pointed out that the Syriac Church valued greatly the Apostle James, brother of Jesus, and the tradition of community as the basis of unity. This is different from the Western church which early on valued Greek philosophy and “right theology” as the basis of unity. This of course led to the bitter division between the Western churches and the Oriental Orthodox churches.[4]

The next two presenters brought further historical perspective to ecumenicism. Fr. Timothy Cremeens talked about the lack of ecumenicism in the early church, as any deviation from established orthodoxy was considered as heresy – no dialogue possible. (Fr. Cremeens is one of the best loved regulars of the CLF. He is rector of an American Orthodox Church and is very charismatic. But his denomination does not look favorably on the gifts of the Spirit today. He soldiers onward.) Anthony Martin then gave us a brief history of the Reformation, and what went wrong to result in wars instead of dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.

Fr. Karol Sobczyk was the speaker for the next session (session 8). He presented a history of the Charismatic movement in Poland where the population is over 90% Catholic. In spite of this, he credited the mission of John Wimber decades ago in Poland for being a major impetus of the charismatic renewal, which is growing day by day.

Scott Kelso, who is the coordinator of the CLF, and very active in the ecumenical movement worldwide, gave an interesting take on how important prophecy is for the ecumenical movement. It moves persons out of their comfort zones and into obedience with God’s will, which is ultimately the unity of the Church. In the next session Dr. John Gresham gave us information about the origins of the term “receptive ecumenism.” It was coined by Dr. Paul Murray of the university of Durham. He organized the first meeting on the topic, and later published a book on it.[5] Gresham suggested several other seminal sources of receptive ecumenism.[6]

The next presentation was by two persons, a layman, Isias Carniero and Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela, described the ongoing successes of ecumenism in Latin America. Brazil is an especially great example, and this year celebrates 50 years of dialogue and ecumenism between Evangelical and Catholics. For those of us like myself, who were born into pre-Vatican II Catholicism, this is a miraculous change. Well into the 1960s, Protestant missionaries in various parts of Latin America were harassed and even murdered by Catholic vigilantes who believed they were protecting the true faith.

At noon the attendees were bussed to Ascension Lutheran Church for an Ash Wednesday service. After lunch there were presentations by leaders of two covenant communities, Word of Christ and Alleluia, both describing how they managed and lived out their receptive ecumenism. Both communities were predominantly Catholic but Catholics in these communities cherished what they had learned from their Protestant brothers and sisters. Especially in the early days of the 1970s, the classic works of the Pentecostal and Charismatic renewal such as the Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, and the cassettes of Derek Prince were seminal.

After dinner on Tuesday, there was a reception at an outdoor fire pit with several other Christian groups who were also present at the Alleluia community – alas, without marshmallows. The next morning opened with a powerful prayer and praise session which became a healing service. Many healings occurred and I personally received a healing for my hearing. This was followed by the last session, and my favorite.

The Catholic Bishop of Portland, Oregon, Peter Smith, spoke. He is noted for his orthodox theology and charismatic beliefs, and he jokingly introduced himself as the bishop of the “People’s Republic of Portland.” He noted that he created a rumpus in Oregon when he mandated that children in Catholic schools under his jurisdiction must be addressed by their birth names. What surprised me especially was his comment that when he hears confessions, he often says prayers of deliverance over the supplicant. This is a situation where deliverance prayer can be very effective, especially in sins of addiction.

The 2023 CLF was a great conference, and if you have a leadership position in any church or para-church organization, please join us next year.





[1] For a better description of the CLF and the Alleluia community, see posting of the 2020 CLF in The Pneuma Review (March 30, 2020). /charismatic-leaders-fellowship-2020/

[2] William De Arteaga, Marvels and Signs: Quintessential Essays From an Anglican Pentecostal (Lee’s Summit: Christos, 2022) chapter 10, “Did the Charismatic Renewal Begin in 1950?”

[3] See Judith Tydings, Gathering a People (Plainfield; Logos International, 1977).

[4] On this tragic division see the work of Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years (New York; HarperCollins, 2010).

[5] Paul Murray, Receptive Ecumenism as Transformative Ecclesial Learning (Oxford: Oxford University, 2022).

[6] See Andrew Wilson, Spirit and a Sacrament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018). [Editor’s Note: See the review by Rick Wadholm Jr.]

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2023

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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